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Six Games to Watch

October 31, 2003|Robyn Norwood


Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: USC by 12.

Washington State update: The Cougars -- tied for first in the Pacific 10 with UCLA -- had to come from behind last week to defeat Oregon State, 36-30. Five of their victories are over teams with losing records.

USC update: The Trojans lead the series, 50-8-4, but not only have they lost the last two meetings against the Cougars, they've also lost the last two times the teams have played at the Coliseum.

Story line: This looks like the game of the year in the Pac-10, with the Rose Bowl -- or more -- quite possibly at stake once again.

The pick: USC. Comparing scores can be misleading, but USC won at Notre Dame, 45-14, and Washington State lost to the Irish, 29-26.


NO. 2 MIAMI (7-0) AT NO. 10 VIRGINIA TECH (6-1)

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m.


Line: Miami by 3 1/2.

Miami update: With Virginia Tech's loss last week, Miami and Oklahoma are on a Sugar Bowl collision course if neither loses. Only two opponents have scored more than 14 points against the Hurricanes.

Virginia Tech update: This would have been a clash between No. 2 and No. 3 before the Hokies were upset last week by West Virginia, 28-7.

Story line: This isn't the showdown it was supposed to be, but Miami is in control of its national-championship prospects -- and all those one-loss teams are rooting for a Hurricane loss.

The pick: Miami. The Hurricanes have won 39 consecutive regular-season games. Virginia Tech's streak is at zero.



Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 7.

Line: Oklahoma by 16.

Oklahoma State update: Since opening the season with a loss to Nebraska, the Cowboys have won seven in a row. Receiver Rashaun Woods had an NCAA-record seven touchdown catches against Southern Methodist.

Oklahoma update: The Sooners are headed for the national title game in the Sugar Bowl if they win their final four games and don't stumble in the Big 12 championship game.

Story line: They call it the Bedlam Series, and it certainly has been lately, much to the Sooners' chagrin.

The pick: Oklahoma. Oklahoma State Coach Les Miles gave the Sooners a little extra inspiration with his choice of words when he said they are "the best team in college football, or so we're told."


NO. 4 GEORGIA (7-1) VS. NO. 23 FLORIDA (5-3)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 2.

Line: Georgia by 2 1/2.

Georgia update: The Bulldogs lived dangerously in a 16-13 victory over Alabama Birmingham last week. The week before, they trailed Vanderbilt at halftime, 2-0, before rallying to win. Nevertheless, Georgia leads the nation in total defense, giving up only 243.4 yards a game.

Florida update: Since losing three of their first six games, the Gators have turned spoilers, handing Louisiana State its first loss and defeating then-No. 11 Arkansas.

Story line: The Gators have won 12 of the last 13 meetings -- including last season's, when Florida handed fifth-ranked Georgia its first loss, 20-13.

The pick: Florida. Another upset, and Ron Zook might start looking good.


NO. 12 NEBRASKA (7-1) AT NO. 16 TEXAS (6-2)

Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Line: Texas by 5 1/2.

Nebraska update: Since losing to Missouri, the Cornhuskers have not given up an offensive touchdown, defeating Texas A&M and Iowa State by a combined 76-12.

Texas update: The Longhorns' two losses were to Arkansas and No. 1 Oklahoma, and like Nebraska, they're coming off two easy games, having outscored Iowa State and Baylor by a combined 96-19.

Story line: Texas ended Nebraska's 26-game home winning streak last season.

The pick: Nebraska. In a battle of rushing quarterbacks -- Jammal Lord of Nebraska and Vince Young of Texas -- Nebraska's defense could make the difference.



Kickoff: 9 a.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Line: Michigan by 4.

Michigan update: Oft-maligned John Navarre has become only the sixth quarterback in Big Ten history to pass for more than 8,000 yards, and Chris Perry's 121.6-yard rushing average ranks eighth in the nation.

Michigan State update: The Spartans are the last unbeaten team in Big Ten play. Quarterback Jeff Smoker leads the conference in total offense at 252.6 yards a game.

Story line: The winner is in good shape in the Big Ten race because Ohio State must play Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan.

The pick: Michigan. The Wolverines are No. 2 in the nation in pass defense and should slow the Spartans.

-- Robyn Norwood

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